Hal Duncan, the juggernaut responsible for Ink and Vellum, is storybusking. Go help him out–he’s a great writer. And in solidarity with him, here’s an excerpt from a novel I’m working on, The Book Murderer. If you like what you read, go donate something to Hal.
The news just broke at Tor.com that my wife, Ann VanderMeer, will be consulting fiction editor for the website. Which I believe is among the highest-paying markets in SF/F. She will be acquiring short fiction for Tor.
“She brings a sharp eye for adventurous fiction to all of her projects, and we look forward to the stories and authors she’ll bring to Tor.com.”
This is richly deserved and only poetic or karmic justice in many ways. I’m really thrilled for her!
Dean Francis Alfar is an excellent short story writer whose second collection How to Traverse Terra Incognitais now available on Amazon and elsewhere in e-book form. The book comes with blurbs from such luminaries as Hugo Award winners Ann VanderMeer and Lynne M. Thomas, among others.
Not familiar with Alfar? Here’s what you need to know.
Alfar is a Filipino playwright, novelist and writer of speculative fiction. His plays have been performed in venues across the country, while his articles and fiction have been published both in his native Philippines and abroad, such as in Strange Horizons, Rabid Transit, The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror and the Exotic Gothic series. His literary awards include the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature and then Manila Critics’ Circle National Book Award. He is an advocate of the literature of the fantastic, editing the Philippine Speculative Fiction series, as well as a comic book creator and a blogger. Alfar is also an entrepreneur who runs several businesses. He lives in Manila with his wife, fictionist Nikki Alfar and their two daughters.
So here’s a proposition for you, since I’m a big fan of Alfar’s work. Below the cut, Alfar is allowing me to post “Enkantong-bato,” his entry from the bestiary anthology Ann and I are editing—totally new fiction, not found in the collection, free for you to read. Exclusive to this blog post and only available here for the next month. BUT, if you read and enjoy it, please do me favor and go buy How to Traverse Terra Incognita. The fact is, you’ll actually be doing yourself a favor!
(Art by Jeremy Zerfoss)
It’s been a great few weeks at Weirdfictionreview.com—we’ve been posting a ton of amazing content. This week we’re featuring the Finnish writer Johanna Sinisalo, but also check out wonderful material by Edward Gauvin, Matthew Pridham, Nancy Hightower, and Rochita Loenin-Ruiz. (Many thanks to our managing editor, Adam Mills, for making this all happen.)
An essay on Finnish Weird
A significant section of the people who do not read books in these styles have a surprisingly narrow understanding of what these genres entail. For them, the mere mention of the word ‘fantasy’ conjures up visions of a pseudo-Dark Age world inhabited by fairies, spirits, dwarves and dragons and where people used magic swords to fight against the powers of darkness.
An excerpt from her award-winning novel Troll
In the studio I take Pessi in my arms then whisk the Stalkers on to his back legs with a single pull?—?knowing I’d not manage it at a second shot. If Pessi had thought of spreading his hind claws, the jeans wouldn’t have slipped on: the legs would have been torn to shreds. A size to fit a three-foot-six-inch child suits him stunningly. I’ve got the zip and metal button fastened and have twitched his tail through the hole I’ve made in the Stalker backside before he realizes he’s been diddled. Then I throw Pessi?—?now a hissing, whirling ball bristling with razor-sharp claws?—?in front of the backdrop, and I start the automatic camera rolling.
A new, exclusive interview with the author
If I’m brutally honest, I have to mention Carl Barks and his classic Donald Duck comics. Barks had an enormous talent of entertaining with the tools of exaggeration, mystery, bizarre characters and unlimited?–?sometimes very, very weird?–?imagination. In my honest opinion, Carl Barks was one of the greatest writers of 20th century. I have learned to read leafing through Donald Duck comics, and whenever I encounter some of the old stories I first read when I was four or five, I get goosebumps, because I can still recall the excitement and thrill of the first reading in detail.
Also new on the site:
Did you miss it? Rochita Loenin-Ruiz’s fiction and nonfiction:
Hunting for Stories in the Philippines
One thing I immediately learned was this: horror is alive and well in Filipino language publications. I found tales of hauntings and possessions. Murdered spirits come back to avenge their deaths, beautiful white ladies turn into monsters, and creatures of the night feed on innocent flesh. These stories are familiar to every Filipino, for who doesn’t know of the aswang or the tikbalang? What Filipino is unfamiliar with the kapre and the nuno sa punso? Who hasn’t heard of hauntings and blood dripping down the walls?
Of the Liwat’ang Yawa, the Litok-litok and their Prey
In the same year as Dimaano’s book came out, a series of killings took place in the towns of Kalaygo and Layog. The killings resembled those described in Dimaano’s book, and pushed the book further into the spotlight. His thesis was embraced as canon and became the source book for shows like Guni-guni and Mameng Taleng’s Nightside Tales.
Over at Omnivoracious.com you’ll find my feature on the excellent anthology Beyond Binary, including quotes from an interview I conducted with editor Brit Mandelo. Go check it out and recommend it to your friends! And below you’ll find Mandelo’s full answers to a couple of the questions; I couldn’t include everything due to length considerations.
What do you think makes SF/F ideal for exploring ideas and issues related to gender and sexual identity?
I think that the astounding range of possibilities speculative fiction offers for asking vital questions, reinterpreting or discarding contemporary mores, and breaking boundaries is what makes it ideal for exploring issues of gender and sexuality. SFF not only allows us to ask “what if?,” it also allows us to make real whatever we can imagine—the very nature of the form, as a literature of extrapolation and invention, opens up a field of discourse where everything has potential and anything is possible. This nearly unlimited ability to explore, expand, and explode definitions makes speculative fiction the only form that can effectively transcend and truly embody an equally vast multitude of potential gender and sexual identities.
In the same vein, Joanna Russ’s argument for speculative fiction is one that resonates with me, too, and I tend to quote it when asked a question like this. She said, “science fiction […] provides myths for dealing with the kind of experiences we are actually having now, instead of the literary myths we have inherited, which only tell us about the kinds of experiences we think we ought to be having.” In SFF, we can deal authentically with issues of identity and self in a way that is often effaced or barred from traditional literary forms; being able to twist and restructure reality in narrative is a powerful tool for social criticism. In fact, I’d say that the tools for social criticism are natural to and almost inseparable from the same narrative machinery that drives speculative fiction to begin with—that willingness to ask questions, to imagine, and to invent worlds that are not quite like our own. Speculative fiction, then, offers a golden opportunity for folks whose stories are often silenced to encompass their narratives, their identities, in a form that is—in a lot of ways, though this is a whole different argument—itself a sort of outsider literature.
I’m curious as to what kinds of effects stripping out gender referents has on fiction, in your opinion?
When done well, it can destabilize narrative assumptions about gender—and, even more so, reader assumptions. When we begin reading a story, we make assumptions based on hints and clues from the narrative, yes, but also based on our own implicit worldview. I’m as guilty of this as anyone; it’s just a way that we make meaning during the reading process. But, when a story manages to sidestep gender referents and craft a narrative not mediated by explicit gender, that’s something special: it forces the reader to step back and check their own assumptions about character gender, and destabilizes the assumption that everyone presents a specific gender. The thematic force of a narrative that rests on an agendered, neutrois or un-gendered person can also be pretty stellar, challenging mythologies of gender performance and the binary of male/female that the English language so commonly subscribes to. (And, on a craft level, writing without gendering a character is a pretty thrilling display of technical mastery. It’s hard to overstate the control and precision required to write, and write well, without pronouns or gendered language.)
My 2006 novel Shriek: An Afterword had a soundtrack by the Australian band The Church, and now three of the tracks are on YouTube. I really love what they did with the novel, and the Bannerville one…well, Steve Kilbey did a great job conveying the emotion of that scene—he’s reading from the novel directly. You can buy the CD direct from The Church here.
I’ve got some hardcovers of the novel I need to get out of the house—we’re getting rid of some clutter—so email me at [email protected] if you want one signed with an illustration. $6 plus $3 shipping anywhere in the US. Anywhere else, query first. This is still the novel I’m most proud of, and the one I keep getting emails about. In fact, one couple told me part of their marriage vows came from Shriek.
An epic yet personal look at several decades of life, love, and death in the imaginary city of Ambergris–previously chronicled in Jeff VanderMeer’s acclaimed City of Saints & Madmen–Shriek: An Afterword relates the scandalous, heartbreaking, and horrifying secret history of two squabbling siblings and their confidantes, protectors, and enemies.
Narrated with flamboyant intensity and under increasingly urgent conditions by ex-society figure Janice Shriek, this afterword presents a vivid gallery of characters and events, emphasizing the adventures of Janice’s brother Duncan, a historian obsessed with a doomed love affair and a secret that may kill or transform him; a war between rival publishing houses that will change Ambergris forever; and the gray caps, a marginalized people armed with advanced fungal technologies who have been waiting underground for their chance to mold the future of the city.
Part academic treatise, part tell-all biography, after this introduction to the Family Shriek, you’ll never look at history in quite the same way again.
For awhile now I’ve been working on a novel entitled The Book Murderer. It’s a strange hybrid in that it has satirical elements (sending up all aspects of book culture) but becomes more and more psychologically three-dimensional as it goes along and you come to know the main character’s background. It probably has a little bit of something to offend everyone. And it’s incredibly sweary, for those who don’t like the sweary… (As readers should know by now, I often write characters I don’t agree with or don’t agree with in all particulars…)
Here’re the opening sections…
I posted some photo sets on facebook this past week, which you can access through the following links, I believe:
Fiji photo set—Our parents were in the Peace Corps and my sister and I spent a substantial portion of our childhood in Fiji. My dad taught chemistry at the University of the South Pacific and my mom did biological illustrations of endangered sea turtles and other flora and fauna. My dad also studied the rhinoceros beetle, which was a danger to coconut trees. Although I lived in Fiji, I’ve never really been able to write about it in fiction to any great extent. I think it’s mostly likely a subject for nonfiction for me, for whatever reason. (I recently bought a slide converter, so will have other photo sets from our other travels as a kid soonish. The photos are all from the 1970s)
Romania photo set—We were lucky enough to go to Romania for a book tour, along with six other countries, back in 2006. Our hosts, including Bogdan Hrib and Horia Ursu took us all over the place, including to the north and then down the Danube. It was a real bonding experience and by the time we left we knew we’d made lifelong friends.
“Backyard” photo set—Images from the hill trail I walk regularly at San Luis Park, which is about five minutes from where we live, here in Tallahassee.
Some sample photos beneath the cut.
We’ve just finished finalizing most of the Cheeky Frawg schedule for 2012-2013—in addition to our already-released titles this year (in e-book form) of the anthology ODD?, Amal El-Mohtar’s The Honey Month, and Stepan Chapman’s Philip K. Dick Award-winning novel The Troika (in partnership with Wyrm/Ministry of Whimsy.) Please check all three of those great titles out. Not on the schedule below:
—Jess Nevin’s The Encyclopedia of Victoriana, a book for which we are partnering with Neil Clarke’s Wyrm imprint.
—Cruel Paris by Claude Seignolle (a collection newly translated by Gio Clairval), one of France’s most respected fantasists, for which we are considering doing a limited hardcover edition and some other special touches.
—The ODD? anthology series, for which a new schedule will be announced soon.
Late September 2012:
Don’t Pay Bad for Bad & Other Stories by Amos Tutuola—A selection of previously uncollected and rare tales by the Nigerian master storyteller. Blurbed by Nnedi Okorafor. Introduction by Tutuola’s son and afterword by Matthew Cheney. (E-book only.)
Tainaron by Leena Krohn. This World Fantasy Award finalist short novel by one of Finland’s most highly regarded writers is a personal favorite of ours, and we’re delighted to be able to bring it back into print.
Jagannath: Stories by Karin Tidbeck—This amazing collection by a wonderful Swedish writer has received glowing blurbs from the likes of Ursula K. Le Guin, China Mieville, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Karen Lord, and Karen Joy Fowler. Elizabeth Hand has written the introduction. We will have a book release party at the World Fantasy Convention in Toronto, with the author in attendance. Preorder links will be available in September. (Trade paper and e-book.)
Datura by Leena Krohn—The increasingly strange story of the going’s-on at The New Anomalist magazine and a very dangerous flower. Another wonderful short novel by a Finnish icon. Instead of sections, the book comes in three seed pods. Newly translated by Juha Tupasela and Anna Volmari. Funded by a generous grant from the Finnish Literature Exchange. (Trade paper and e-book.)
The Explorer & Other Stories by Jyrki Vainonen—One of Finland’s best short story writers, Vainonen writes in a fantastical mode with an underlying hint of the macabre or disturbing. Newly translated by Juha Tupasela and Anna Volmari. Funded by a generous grant from the Finnish Literature Exchange. (E-book and possible trade paperback.)
Dona Quixote: The Leena Krohn Omnibus—One great volume collecting Krohn’s novels Tainaron, Dona Quixote, Gold of Ophir, and Pereat Mundus (never before published), along with newly translated short stories, essays about Krohn’s work, and a complete bibliography. A publishing event. (Trade paper and e-book.)
Just a few things to mention in the aftermath of the Weird Tales debacle. I’m speaking for myself only in this, not for Ann VanderMeer. And if you’re not interested—no worries. There’s lots of interesting stuff upcoming on the blog that has nothing to do with this issue, including updates on Weirdfictionreview.com.
I’ll start with some links that I think are relevant:
—Adam Mills puts the entire incident into a wider context, which lacks only a few items, such as Marvin Kaye posting on author walls on Facebook soliciting stories prior to the announcement of the change in editors; the new editors discarding the electronic submissions portal; imposing erratic submission windows; and offering a terrible e-issue for last year’s World Fantasy convention made worse by a bizarre postcard advertisement that implied Neil Gaiman (or “Neil Fucking Gaiman” as they referred to him) and other World Fantasy Con guests of honor were in the e-issue (they were not). Maybe some of the information in Mills’ post and here will be of use for aspiring magazine editors re what not to do. Although, frankly, most of this appears to fall under the category of Duh.
—Larry Nolen offers up a cogent analysis of the controversial novel itself, with which I concur. There are certainly controversies that arise in which the interpretation is debatable. This is not one of them.
—The Guardian also offers a review that hits on some key issues.